One of the key purposes of the existence of Orlando City B is to give young players out of the academy a place to play as they continue to develop. While it's still early, it looks as though the first young star Orlando City will produce may be midfielder Pierre Da Silva.
Da Silva was born in Port Chester, NY, and first arrived in Florida when he was invited to join the IMG Academy in Bradenton in 2013. It was from there that Orlando City brought the young player into the club's academy to play for the U-15/16 team. In his time at the academy, Da Silva quickly rose through the ranks. He was signed to his first professional contract this year at just 17 years of age.
While Da Silva may not have been known to most Orlando City fans heading into this USL season, he was by no means unknown. Starting at the U-15 level, the youngest age group, Da Silva has been progressing through the ranks of the U.S. national team program. Last year he was named to Richie Williams' squad for the 2015 U-17 FIFA World Cup.
Orlando City's academy has been highly touted as the club has put an emphasis on producing Homegrown Players. While other academy products were expected to be signed by OCB for this season, including much talked about midfielder Raul Aguilera, only Da Silva and goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar actually signed their first professional contracts.
Though listed as a forward previously, Da Silva has found a home as a left sided midfielder, playing in front of 22-year-old left back Mikey Ambrose. The two have turned heads this season as they are often the focal point of the young Lions' attack.
"Since preseason we've been playing together," Da Silva said about his partnership with Ambrose. "So we have that chemistry."
But it's not just fans and media that the young Da Silva has impressed this season.
"He's somebody that we've got high hopes for," former Lion and current OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis said about his midfielder. "He works his socks off and he's got a lot of talent. If he keeps his head down and keeps listening and keeps working on the parts of the game that he needs to work on, he's got a very, very bright future ahead of him."
In April, Da Silva was called into the U.S. U-19 national team to compete in the Slovakia Cup. He started three of the team's four games in the tournament, playing 228 total minutes. In the championship game against Russia, he scored the game-winning goal in 65th minute as the Americans won the tournament.
Upon his return, Da Silva was back in Pulis' starting lineup and soon was making a difference. Saturday night against the Charlotte Independence, Da Silva was the best player on the field, having a hand in both of OCB's goals in the team's 2-1 win.
In the 53rd minute, Da Silva showed off his skill, combining with Tony Rocha for a one-two and then sliding the ball past the Charlotte goalkeeper for the equalizer. Then, in the 71st minute, Da Silva showed his set piece ability as he lifted the ball about 30 yards onto the head of Craig Nitti for the winning goal.
Since Phil Rawlins started this club in 2011, he's spoken publicly about a dream to one day field a team largely made up of local, homegrown talent out of the academy. While it may be a bit too early to declare him for the senior team, 17-year-old Pierre Da Silva looks well on his way to being that first academy produced player to represent the club in MLS.